The best way to engage students in STEM learning is to give them real-world problems to solve--here are 3 to motivate them.

3 real-world competitions that support STEM learning

The best way to engage students in STEM learning is to give them real-world problems to solve--here are 3 to motivate them

STEM learning is proving key to the future of work, as an increasing number of jobs–some of which have yet to be created–will require STEM knowledge. But topics such as math and engineering also can be challenging, leading many students to stop engaging in STEM learning.

Real-world challenges can help, though, because they motivate students and inspire problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking.

Asking students to solve challenges that exist in the real world is a sure-fire way to truly engage them in STEM learning. It also lets students take what they learn in the classroom and use it to help others.

In fact, research shows that presenting students with a problem that actually exists is one of the key ways to generate and sustain STEM engagement–particularly among girls.

3 competitions that inspire a love of STEM learning

1. Samsung Solve for Tomorrow (Deadline: October 23): For the 10th consecutive year, Samsung has launched the annual Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, which challenges 6th-12th grade public school students and teachers to use STEM to address issues in their communities. While STEM is the core classroom discipline, Solve for Tomorrow fosters skills development that goes far beyond, including: critical thinking, problem solving, agile iteration, civic engagement and team collaboration. Solve for Tomorrow aims to improve student outcomes and advocate for teachers while uniting communities. In addition to the contest, Samsung also offers professional development opportunities for teachers to help them grow their skills and assist in the classroom.

In celebration of the 10th anniversary, Samsung is increasing the prize pool by $1 million – awarding $3 million* in technology and supplies to classrooms as they advance throughout the contest. Samsung is also increasing the total number of schools awarded and ensuring schools in every state are recognized and receive much needed learning technology for their classrooms.

“I believe that problem-based learning has to be the future foundation of the American educational system. Modern technology has placed limitless knowledge and reason at our fingertips,” says John Leistner, Teacher at Ashland Middle School, 2018 National Winner. “It is our challenge as educators to utilize this technology as we transition our students beyond the simple memorization of facts or procedures and teach them how to authentically apply what they’ve learned to solve real-world problems.”

2. FirePoint C3 Challenge (Intent to Compete Deadline: October 18): The FirePoint Innovations Center at Wichita State University’s first-ever FirePoint C3 Challenge invites university students from around the U.S. to submit their best designs for the Army’s future unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) intended for next-generation combat and defense.

To enter, teams must first register and then submit an Intent to Compete by October 18th. The entire program runs through February 2021, when the final reports and demonstration of the completed UAV will be presented to the U.S. Department of Defense, along with other industry experts in aerospace, aviation and manufacturing.

The C3 Challenge brings together teams of the best and brightest student designers, engineers, and innovators–along with the U.S. Army and industry partners–to converge, collaborate, and create advanced technologies to fuel the Army Futures Command’s product and workforce development initiatives. The C3 Challenge aims to develop the STEM workforce of tomorrow by giving students hands-on, real-world experience and networking opportunities in the aerospace industry, while also surfacing for the Army the most innovative designs currently residing in university labs around the country.

With a total prize package of up to $35,000, the C3 Challenge asks students to submit a design proposal for a specific component within a UAV subsystem—either lift, energy or structure. Up to 10 teams will then be selected to develop a proof of concept and finally collaborate to design and fabricate an integrated working prototype for final presentation to the Army.

3. Odyssey of the Mind (Deadline: December to January of the current school year): Odyssey of the Mind is an international creative problem-solving program that engages students in their learning by allowing their knowledge and ideas to come to life in an exciting, productive environment. Participants build self-confidence, develop life skills, create new friendships, and are able to recognize and explore their true potential. This year, the competition is partnered with ARM & HAMMER Baking Soda.

Starting with the 2019-2020 tournament year, ARM & HAMMER will be sponsoring a problem where students will need to use baking soda as a key element in their solution and performance.

Odyssey of the Mind problems have challenged students to design mechanical dinosaurs, invent new factory machinery, build working vehicles, write a new chapter to Moby Dick, put a twist on classic artworks, turn Pandora’s Box into a video game, and so much more.

All Odyssey of the Mind solutions require students to perform, not just the sciences, but the arts as well–whether it be set-building, costume-making, creating props, acting, singing, or playing an instrument. These skills are important to create a balanced education. Because they are doing something fun, students are eager to perform and develop self-confidence and public speaking skills along the way.

Registration deadlines are determined by participants’ local organization. In most cases, the registration period last until December or January of the school year.

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